Preparing for 2013

Howie Fenton
Though the economy is slowly recovering, parent organizations continue to focus on reducing overhead. In-plants must remain vigilant for ways to decrease the cost of manufacturing, measure improvements and respond to customers' changing needs.

The state of the in-plant printing market is healthier than it has been in the last few years—not because of any projected growth in in-plants, but because in-plant managers are reporting that they are under slightly less scrutiny. Don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security, however. It does not mean you can relax. We are still suffering through a maddeningly slow recovery that will likely continue into next year and result in keeping you—or putting you back—under a microscope.

In this article we’ll look at industry trends, including what we saw at October’s Graph Expo 2012: the unrelenting drive to reduce costs, the importance of keeping your customers happy, and a renewed focus from industry leaders on strategic planning.

As many others have reported, this year’s Graph Expo was noticeably different than previous shows. Most obvious to anyone who walked the floor was that it was quieter because fewer offset press manufacturers brought equipment. On the other hand, there was an increase in the amount of digital devices, such as the toner-based presses, inkjet presses and large-format inkjet devices.

In addition, there was a general consensus of opinion that large-­format printing was a growth opportunity. It was discussed by several manufacturers of both roll-fed and flatbed devices. In one presentation I attended, I heard a manufacturer say that if you can bill for just three hours of work a day, you could make more than $100,000 a month in profits.

We’re not sure if this is true; our general rule of thumb is that it takes longer or requires a higher utilization rate to make profit. But that’s based on digital printing, which is priced more competitively. And remember, just because there is market research that shows growth potential for a specific product, does not mean everyone will succeed with it. (See sidebar.)

Howard “Howie” Fenton is an associate director of operations consulting with InfoTrends. He works with governments, universities and corporate enterprises to assess and benchmark their customer and graphic communications processes and provide recommendations on staffing, technology and sourcing. Prior to joining InfoTrends, he worked for 12 years at the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) and served for six years at the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF).

  • DKarl

    Our district had an evaluation done by Mr. Fenton this past year, and it was extremely useful for us to have someone from the printing industry evaluate us -vs- a company that has no knowledge of the field.